Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon Collector’s Edition is a limited run book aimed specifically at those looking to celebrate the history of one of gaming’s most important icons.
What can I say about Pac-Man (originally Puck-Man, because he looks like a hockey puck) that people don’t already know? This beloved 1980s icon has done more to influence popular culture, design, and visual media than almost any video game character — other than perhaps Pikachu. Pac-Man is ubiquitous, so much so that parents and grandparents who haven’t picked up a game since the Atari will recognize him. Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon collector’s edition celebrates that rich heritage in the form of a limited edition hardback book, Pac-Man shaped slipcase, 7″ vinyl containing the 1981 hit Pac-Man Fever and a Pac-Man arcade token. The collector’s edition is limited to only 2000 copies.
The book, slipcase and vinyl scream quality giving the overall package a more premium feel than the price indicates. The book has beautiful full-color pages comprehensively outlining the history of Pac-Man right up to the present day and its impact on popular culture, video games and product design. I particularly enjoyed the part of the book that has pictures of weird and wonderful Pac-Man themed products. It’s a testament to Pac-Man’s ubiquity that he can be found in haute couture on a catwalk to a Chef Boyardee tin of neon yellow mac & cheese.
I feel like there’s something for everyone in Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon. As a software engineer, I found beauty in the pictures of the printed assembly language instructions and the infamous level 256 bug. Even people who know the history of video games inside out are likely to find something new and interesting in this book. Did you know that the memorable “waka-waka” sound Pac-Man makes when he eats a dot echoes Japanese slang for munching – like the word “chomp” in English? The reader becomes acquainted with many of the technical aspects of the game’s development including the attack, regroup, attack algorithm used by the ghosts when they are hunting Pac-Man. It’s enlightening to read interviews by the game’s developers documenting these choices and the reasons they were made, bringing the reader back to 1979 and the golden age of the arcade.
I really enjoyed my time leafing through Birth of an Icon. I believe Pac-Man fans would be hard-pressed to find another book that is so comprehensive, detailed and analytical in its coverage of the history of Pac-Man, pulling together quotes, pictures and information from such a diverse range of sources in order to tell this story. This would make a perfect coffee table book to flick through and enjoy the vibrant images, bringing some colour and happiness to these cold, dark November evenings. The package itself is quite expensive – the collector’s edition is priced at $99.95 however, one gets the impression that the price is fair given the quality of the product. Even so, the price point of the product makes it difficult to recommend to those with only a passing interest in Pac-Man or the history of arcade games; this is definitely one for the fans and I expect that is exactly what the creators of this book intended.
Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon can be purchased from Cook and Becker.